Archive for May, 2007

Google developer day 2007 (2)

May 31st, 2007

Time has now passed and we are in the middle of the US keynote. To be honest I was getting a little board because we have already seen and heard most of that is going on. One positive this is that I have now seen a demonstration of Google Gears. This was slightly amusing because to demonstrate this a laptop needed disconnecting form the network, and this proved harder than you might expect. Never before have I experienced a round of applause when someone finally managed to get a network to fail.

Currently we are located in several rooms in the building as the larger room used for our keynote was being dismantled for another event this evening. In some ways it is a shame as it has changed the mood and I feel less connected to the proceedings. That being said this has not been helped be the fact that the rest of the event has been done so well.

The notable bits of the day have been that the “Blogger” room had a collection of very comfortable cushions to so on the floor and well as a few walk up to terminals, lots of food and free [very very slow] wifi. Sadly this room was also being packed up before the end of the conference just when I wanted to do a little work over the tea break.

I did forget to mention that all the other rooms were renamed for the day to places in the Startwars movies, which was fun. There was also a laptop recharge room.

Well what do you know, my battery is about dead, and the Laptop recharge room is 3 floors up, if it was still open, so I have decided to put the laptop away. Unusually I was one of the few with the laptop out. A complete reverse of normality, so perhaps everyone else has flat batteries as well.

Google developer day 2007

May 31st, 2007

I am just sitting down at the end of Google developer day (UK) 2007 waiting for a webcast from Mountain View that I guess will be the US opening keynote presentation. A few years ago this would have been an exciting technological spectacle, but today the excitement is the anticipation over if the venue’s Internet connection can support the video stream as it has been struggling over the day with the large number of users.

The event is being held at The Brewery, Barbican, London. I bumped in to Ian and Matt who were there to do the BBC Backstage presentation as well as Nick and Tom (who is either stalking me, or me him) who I have gotten to know at various BarCamps, and Simon who also made a flying visit and fully admits he came for the food. For reference the food was great with breakfast when we arrived and lunch a couple of hours later.

The first piece of clever thinking I came across was the large delegate badge with a personalised agenda on the back. We alsogot a bag of goodies including some Google goo (no, I don’t know what it is either), a yoyo, a flash drive (labelled 256MB, but really 512MB), a t-shirt and other Google branded goodies.

The keynote was from Chris DiBona and Ed Parsons and it was clear from this start that Google really are pushing geographic content and context at the moment. I will not write that much about the sessions I attended as you will be able to view them online if you are interested, but this is a quick summery.

Google and Open Source, Chris DiBona: I will be honest and say that I put this down as my reserve choice because Chris was presenting it, but I am glad I did. If you want to know more about the origination of open source and the various open licences available then this is worth a viewing.

Googel Earth and the GeoWeb, Peter Birch: This was what I was most interested in with my fascination with geographic data. This was a good introduction, and although I have already done several Google Earth live data mashups I feel that I learned something about the capability of the KML format. I was also really impressed by the demonstrations that used a special controller to navigate in the software. I did ask about the caching (or lack of caching) of the live KML data and reading between the lines I don’t think they are planning to improve this in the near future.

Googel data APIs, Lane LiaBraaten: This was the presentation I was most keen to see as I wanted to know everything I need to know to access my data on Google. Naturally I was expecting that bit too much, but this gave me a good starting point. I was pleased that someone asked about Google using OpenID. No plans at the moment, but they are aware that a lot of people are taking about it and asking them about it, so let’s keep asking. The question over if an API will be available to access the Gmail contacts was also raised, and this is something that they are also looking at. If this API is implemented then I will get my dream of linking Plaxo (that syncs my Outlook contacts) with Gmail.

New features in the Maps API, Giorgio Scherl: I have been meaning to do something with Google Maps for a while but have never quite got round to it. The big thing here was the introduction of Mapplets that will allow me to feed my data using KML in to the Google Maps site along side other feeds. This is something I will be doing with my travel information. I will also be following up on a discussion to help Google get at least some travel information on the UK maps.

If you did not know we had to select the sessions we wanted to attend a while ago and I was a little annoyed that I did not know more about some sessions before hand. If I had of known more would have attended the presentation on Google Gears, a browser plugin/extension that allows access to web services offline. Google Reader can already use this facility, and the APIs are available for anyone to do this. I can’t wait for Gmail and Calendar to be adapted for Gears.

BarCampSheffield: Google Earth mashup

May 27th, 2007

I have just finished showing off a few of my travel mashups using Google Earth and the BBC Backstage TPEG feeds. The all important link for people to check the roads before returning home is here.

BarCampSheffield: Geocaching

May 26th, 2007

Today I am attending BarCampSheffield being hosted by PlusNet. It is naturally good to catch up with Tom, Dave, and a few other familiar faces, but it is great to meet new people who are new to the BarCamp game.

I decided to do my presentation on the hi-tech treasure hunt game Geocaching. The broad concept of the game is to hide a “cache” with a log book and publish the GPS coordinates online, then someone uses this information for find it.

The most common place to publish the location of your cache and find others is This site is operated by Groudspeak in the United States. There are a number of caches around PlusNet that we may go look for later.

There are a number of other resources that are worth noting. The most useful to the UK based cacher is that collates statistics about caching and allows advanced searching. Trigpointing is also a site that appeals to may people who are drawn to caching. is another GPS site that evolved from and is also operated by Groudspeak. There is also an organisation called the Geocaching Association of Great Britain that consists of UK Geocachers and helps with may things including getting permission to place caches on private land.

A big well done and thank you to the team who put together BarCampSheffield, and thanks to Stuart Grimshaw for taking the photograph above and releasing it under the creative commons. All my BarCamp images are released under Creative Commons.

reCaptcha – A useful Captcha

May 25th, 2007

Personally I hate Captcha, that horrid technique of placing some messed up text on a image that a human should be able to read but a computer should not. My main complaint is that it is time consuming and I often just not readable by me. That being said I have not got a better idea for the masses.

Now if you concede that something like this is needed then Carnegie Mellon University’s reCaptcha is an amazing idea. They have been scanning books using OCR software, but not all the words can be interpreted automatically. An unknown word is used for the Captcha, along with another word that is now known, and then user needs to enter both words. This way people are entering the unknown word to identify it while confirming they are human with the known one. The service can be used by other web sites and a number of code libraries are available.

It is not perfect. Some text is imposable to read, and without the context of the sentence I suspect some words will be interpreted incorrectly. That being said I find it easier to use than most other Captcha solutions.

My little car….

May 16th, 2007

…has passed it’s MOT.

I have a lovely little car (stop laughing). It may not be the newest, fastest or most fashionable in the world, but it keeps on going and is fuel efficient. Normally I ignore the “Where do you wind it up?” and “Is it waterproof?” gags because it gets me to where I need to go.

Anyway, it was in for it’s MOT, and unlike last year I thought it might need some significant work doing on the exhaust to pass. Well it did, and considering the car is only worth £250 (stop laughing again) it was touch and go if it would be worth while.

The good news is that it has now passed the MOT for under £200, this including two new tyres that were only just legal, the MOT cost and labour. Thanks to ERB Services for the good work, and thanks Kev for recommending them.